Marco Rubio photo

Remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, DC

December 03, 2015

Thank you. I'm glad to be back here today.

Each time I return to this gathering, the urgency of the topic at hand has increased since the year before. That's true this year more than ever. The threats facing both our country and Israel have grown dramatically in recent months, in large part because our president has placed his own legacy ahead of our mutual security.

But of course, when we gather here a year from now, we'll have a new president-elect. And depending on who it is, we'll have either taken a significant step toward reviving American leadership in the world and advancing Israel's security, or we will have slid even further toward weakness and disengagement.

I think one thing that's become obvious over this last year is the devastating cost of a foreign policy that lacks moral clarity.

Moral clarity means that we stand by our principles and our commitments. It means we speak up for what's right, and speak out against those who are wrong — even if that opens us to criticism. It means our allies trust us, and our adversaries respect us.

It is common sense that American leadership should look like this. Presidents across both parties have led with moral clarity, from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan . . . until now. Now we have a president who leaves our allies feeling betrayed and our adversaries feeling emboldened. And there is no better example than what is happening in the Middle East.

In the entire region, there is only one pro-American free enterprise democratic nation: the Jewish state of Israel. America has strong ties to Israel on a personal, cultural, political, and economic level. It is everything we want the Middle East to look like in the future: free, tolerant, democratic, peace-loving, and desirous of a better future.

And today, Israel stands on the front lines of our civilizational struggle against radical, apocalyptic Islam. That term, Apocalyptic Islam, is not an attempt at being provocative; it is rather a description of the true beliefs of the leaders of both Iran and the Islamic State: that they are living in the end times and that mass genocide is their way to honor God.

This enemy hates our two nations — both liberal democracies, both products of the Judeo-Christian tradition — for the exact same reasons. And the first requirement of fighting for our common security is standing together. We must not separate the threat to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from the threat to Paris, or London, or New York, or Miami.

I can think of no nation whose security is as closely tied to our own. For anytime there is daylight between America and Israel, it emboldens Israel's enemies to take action — first against the Jewish state, but then against the rest of the free world. Last month, we saw how quickly terror can spread from the Middle East into the heart of Europe.

Many in Washington fail to understand this. They wonder why we should trouble ourselves with a small country thousands of miles away. They fail to see its connection to our national security and our moral character. They fail to understand the danger of sending a message to the world that America is an unreliable ally. And so they argue we should distance ourselves from Israel — abandon it to its multitude of eager enemies.

I believe that, deep down, those who wish for this know what it would mean. It would mean we leave Israel's citizens to face alone the terror of rockets falling on their homes; the existential threat of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, which President Obama has exacerbated; the death march of the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, on Israel's northern border; and Iranian-backed jihadists who indiscriminately kill Israelis on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv — and yes, in Judea and Samaria.

Those in Washington who wish America would abandon Israel also understand something else: the threat of physical violence is not the only threat Israel would be left to face alone; there is also a growing political and diplomatic threat.

In one international forum after another, Israel is attacked by despotic regimes and even free nations throughout Europe that should know better given their histories. It is singled out for condemnation relentlessly — a bullying to which no other nation is subjected.

Normally, the United States stops these attacks and shames the attackers. Normally, the United States speaks with confidence and clarity against the regimes that hijack international bodies to distract the world from their own wrongdoing.

Normally. But not under Barack Obama.

President Obama — and, I'm afraid, Hillary Clinton — have a different policy. They call it "engagement," but what it should really be called is "abandonment." Instead of standing up to those who single out Israel, the Obama administration takes the path of least resistance. It throws up its hands and says, in essence, "not our problem."

Consider this: Just weeks ago, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas began a speech to a UN body by asking, quote, "For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years, how long?"

As we all know, sixty-seven years ago was 1948, the year of Israel's creation. So the man who is supposed to be Israel's "partner for peace" has just said that all of Israel is illegitimate and that the Jewish state is an "occupation" of someone else's land.

Now, this isn't unusual rhetoric from a Palestinian leader — but what matters is that it should have provoked a harsh condemnation from the United States. But our president said nothing. By his silence, our government emboldened those who seek Israel's destruction and made itself a bystander to a poisonous lie.

Similarly, over the past three months of Palestinian terror attacks, our administration refused over and over again to do anything more than call on both sides for restraint — as if there were no difference between aggression and self-defense. The Palestinian attacks are being incited by lies knowingly promoted about Jewish threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and spread through a vicious campaign of anti-Semitism in Palestinian media.

Or consider the European Union's recent approval of a new trade rule that requires special labeling of products produced in what the EU considers "Israeli-occupied territories." The goal of this is to encourage Europeans to boycott goods from Israel. The rule applies to no other country — not to Russia, which invaded Georgia and Ukraine, nor China, which occupies Tibet. The EU is singling out only Israel.

Let's take a step back and realize what this means. Discriminatory laws that apply only to Jews are now being written into European law for the first time in more than half a century.

I believe we need a president who is not afraid to call this out for what it is: anti-Semitism. I will be that president.

I will take a very different approach to the United Nations. There will be no more complicity in attacks on Israel. Dictators, rogues, and terror sponsors will be publicly shamed. The United States will leave and defund UN entities that attack Israel or promote anti-Semitism.

I will also speak out against anti-Semitism here in America.

One important example is the movement that calls itself "BDS" — for boycott, divest, and sanction. This coalition of the radical left thinks it has discovered a clever, politically correct way to advocate Israel's destruction. BDS couches hatred in the language of human rights and social justice.

But the movement reeks of hypocrisy. Boycotters do not seek to punish Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, or Russia — all actual human rights violators. Their campaign is aimed only at Israel. They make wild, false accusations in the hopes of inciting so much hatred of the Jewish state, especially on our campuses, that eventually support for Israel will become politically taboo.

As president, I will call on university presidents, administrators, religious leaders, and professors to speak out with clarity and force on this issue — the same way they speak out against racism and other forms of bigotry. I will make clear that calling for the destruction of Israel is the same as calling for the death of Jews.

I will bring moral clarity to the White House, but I will also back it with strategic and military strength. When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will fortify our alliance with Israel. In doing so, I will send a message to our friends and enemies alike that America is back — that we will never again confuse adversaries for allies or allies for adversaries.

Let me be loud and clear about how I will begin: I will immediately shred this president's disastrous deal with Iran. News reports out of Vienna this week indicate that Iran will not even be required to come clean about its past nuclear weapons work. This makes a bad deal worse. And those who are now rushing to do business with Iran need to know that upon taking office, I will re-impose the sanctions that President Obama plans to waive over congressional objection.

The days of giving the ayatollah of Iran more respect than the prime minister of Israel will be over. I will hold Iran accountable for the American hostages it has taken, and for its arming and funding of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. I will impose crippling sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

When I am president, I will speak out against Palestinian terror in no uncertain terms, and will never confuse the victim and the victimizer. This means, as part of rebuilding our alliance with Israel, I will put the peace process in perspective. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made it the defining feature of the relationship between our two countries. It should not be for the simple reason that Israel currently has no viable partner for peace.

In fact, the "partner" that this administration claims is interested in peace rewards Palestinian terrorists up to $3,500 for every month they spend in an Israeli prison, which is more than five times as much as the average Palestinian in the West Bank makes per month. They get tens of thousands more upon their release from prison, and the entire level of payment is tied to the number of Israelis they have killed. Does this sound like a group interested in peace?

Some in our own party actually question Israel's commitment to peace. Some in our own party actually call for more sacrifice from the Israeli people. They are dead wrong, and don't understand the enduring bond between Israel and America.

Generation after generation of Israelis have struggled and sacrificed to find peace with an enemy seeking only war and death. I know and honor those sacrifices, and reject those who believe that Israel is the impediment to peace.

Let me be crystal clear: there is no moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies.

I will say it again. There is no moral equivalence between Israel and those who seek to destroy her.

Understanding that fundamental truth is essential to being the next Commander in Chief. This is not a real estate deal with two sides arguing over money. It's a struggle to safeguard the future of Israel.

As President I will challenge the real impediments to peace in the Middle East, and stand up for Israel.

Instead of pressuring Israel to make unreciprocated concessions, I will work with its prime minister on areas of mutual interest. I will finally move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I will help ensure that Jerusalem remains the Jewish state's undivided and eternal capital. I will revive the common-sense understandings reached in the 2004 Bush-Sharon letter and build on them to help ensure Israel has defensible borders, including through its continued control of the Golan Heights.

This is only the beginning of what I will do as president in support of Israel, but it is far from the beginning of my efforts on this issue as a public servant. Throughout my time in the Senate, I have worked to strengthen and deepen our alliance.

I've passed new sanctions against Hezbollah, passed a budget amendment to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and fought to require Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist. I've proposed crushing sanctions on Iran for its ongoing support for terrorism and human rights abuses.

As Speaker of the Florida House, I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran's terrorist regime. And earlier this week, I introduced a resolution with Senator Kirk to ensure that states like Florida can continue to divest from Iran.

I've also led efforts in the Senate to pressure the Palestinian Authority to end its partnership with Hamas, attempted to defund UN agencies that attack Israel, and supported legislation to force Europe to stop its despicable anti-Semitic boycotting of Israeli products. I have been a staunch supporter of our military assistance to the Jewish state, especially the Iron Dome system that has saved countless lives. These programs have ended up benefitting America by leading to technological innovations now used by the U.S. military.

In choosing a president, we need to look at what candidates do, not just what they say. Just a few short years ago, many in my own party were trying to derail the postwar consensus about America's role in the world. They will never call themselves isolationists, but that is exactly what they are.

I believe those who speak about their pro-Israel views but carelessly support a gutting of our international affairs budget, including assistance to Israel, or who vote against legislation funding U.S.-Israel defense programs, need to check their priorities. You cannot be pro-Israel while also attempting to eliminate assistance that Israel uses to defend itself.

I'd like to leave time to take your questions, so let me just close with this point.

One thing that inspires me the most about Israel is that, in the face of so much adversity, no nation wants peace more. No nation has shown greater restraint toward its enemies.

And even as the current administration has turned its back on them in recent years, no people have stood by our nation, on issue after issue, more than the people of Israel.

I'd encourage all of you to go back and look at the United Nations roll call votes. Time and again, when the interests of America are challenged, Israel is one of the few countries that votes with the United States.

Like our own country, the state of Israel is an extraordinary story in the history of the world. I believe our nations share a moral foundation and a moral destiny. And so let us stand with them as they have stood with us. Let our nations, together, serve as beacons of light in an ever-darkening world.

Marco Rubio, Remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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